Posts Tagged ‘science’

The Future of Science

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

We are now entering a crazy period of our history. Europe is sinking beneath a wave of Muslim immigration by young military age men.

America is now seeing riots like Charlottesville. These are being organized by people who have sketchy associations like Jason Kessler who seems to be an “activist” on both sides.

Rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler’s ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure and seem to point to involvement in the Occupy movement and past support for President Obama.

So the “white Nationalist” is an Obama supporter ?

Now, we have to turn to the future of science. We had the Larry Summers episode at Harvard.


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Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers has triggered criticism by telling an economics conference Friday that the under-representation of female scientists at elite universities may stem in part from “innate” differences between men and women, although two Harvard professors who heard the speech said the remarks have been taken out of context in an ensuing national media frenzy.
MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins ’64 said she felt physically ill as a result of listening to Summers’ speech at a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) luncheon, and she left the conference room half-way through the president’s remarks.

This was one of the first reports of snowflakes requiring fainting couches when faced with opposing opinions.

Summers was subsequently forced to resign in spite of an obsequious apology.

More recently, we have had the defenestration of a Google engineer with 100% evaluations fired after expressing sentiments simialr to those Summers had stated.

The memo he wrote is not like the description in the other link.

For example, on the scales measured by the Big Five personality traits women consistently report higher Neuroticism, agreeableness, warmth (an extraversion facet[68]) and openness to feelings, and men often report higher assertiveness (a facet of extraversion [68]) and openness to ideas as assessed by the NEO-PI-R.[69] Gender differences in personality traits are largest in prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which women have more opportunities that are equal to those of men. Differences in the magnitude of sex differences between more or less developed world regions were due to differences between men, not women, in these respective regions. That is, men in highly developed world regions were less neurotic, extroverted, conscientious and agreeable compared to men in less developed world regions. Women, on the other hand tended not to differ in personality traits across regions.

He was demonized for such comments.

OK, Now what have we to face ?

Male dominated Science is to be rejected.

Prescod-Weinstein asserts that, rather than placing value in the contents of peer-reviewed scientific articles, we should recognize that “science has often made its living from encoding and justifying bias” and is “conducted primarily by white men.”

Here’s hoping that airplanes continue to fly with “feminist science” determining design of wings.

This seems related to “Feminist Mathematics.”

There is, now, an extensive critical literature on gender and the nature of science three aspects of which, philosophy, pedagogy and epistemology, seem to be pertinent to a discussion of gender and mathematics.

Who knew that Mathematics had gender ?

We now have a Dean of Engineering at Purdue who is interested in “Feminist Engineering.”

The goal of the FREE research group is to do research, teaching and outreach that helps people (students, the public, engineering colleagues, and other engineering education researchers) develop a more inclusive, engaged, and socially just vision of engineering education.

OK. Maybe it is just the approach to Engineering Education but what is Socially Just Engineering ?

The Next Step from Craig Venter.

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

cell

I have previously posted about Venter’s work with synthetic organisms.

While I was digesting this new material, Craig Venter was making the Gene VII book obsolete. He set up a new company to compete with the Human Genome Project The result is well described in The Genome War by James Shreeve who was given access to Venter but less to the government funded project. This year, Venter’s autobiography was published and his plans for the future are described.

The links are at the original article which is from 2007.

Now, his group has progressed to a synthetic bacterium.

Using the first synthetic cell, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 (created by this same team in 2010), JCVI-syn3.0 was developed through a design, build, and test process using genes from JCVI-syn1.0. The new minimal synthetic cell contains 531,560 base pairs and just 473 genes, making it the smallest genome of any organism that can be grown in laboratory media. Of these genes 149 are of unknown biological function. By comparison the first synthetic cell, M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 has 1.08 million base pairs and 901 genes.

A paper describing this research is being published in the March 25th print version of the journal Science by lead authors Clyde A. Hutchison, III, Ph.D. and Ray-Yuan Chuang, Ph.D., senior author J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., and senior team of Hamilton O. Smith, MD, Daniel G. Gibson, Ph.D., and John I. Glass, Ph.D.

THis is huge news and will take years to develop.

The most surprising result of their work—and perhaps the most sobering one for the rest of the field: The team still doesn’t understand what 31 percent of the essential genes do in even the simplest organism, to say nothing of a human genome. It’s a development Venter called “very humbling.”

“We are probably at the 1 percent level in understanding the human genome,” said Clyde Hutchison III, a distinguished professor at the Venter Institute.

That lack of knowledge isn’t standing in the way of entrepreneurs. Biology has been “hot and heavy” since the development of a molecular tool that makes gene editing easy, Hutchison explained. Scientists might be able to remove disease-causing genes or even determine a baby’s eye color. This technology, known as CRISPR/Cas-9, has alarmed many inside and outside the research community, who fear it may be used on the human genome before its effects are understood, with unforeseen results.

If he does another public seminar, I hope Bradley can get me a ticket. I am now reading “Lewin’s Genes XI,” although he seems to be no longer the editor.

I hope I can wade through it. Sometimes, as knowledge progresses, it becomes simpler. I hope so.

“These cells would be a very, very useful chassis for many industrial applications, from medicine to biochemicals, biofuels, nutrition, and agriculture,” said Dan Gibson, a top scientist at both Venter’s research institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. Ultimately, the group wants to understand the tiny genetic framework well enough to use it as a biological foundation for more complex organisms that could address many of the world’s ills. Once each essential gene’s function is identified, scientists can build an effective computer model of it; from there, they can simulate how best to go about “adding pathways for the production of useful products,” they wrote.

I will be following this story closely, if I can only understand it.

What should the next President be like ?

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

trumpmugger

This is not the same as who the President should be. Richard Fernandez has some ideas on what he (or she) should be like.

let me suggest that only four things matter in selecting a man (or woman) to face a challenge whose present dimensions cannot be predicted. For purposes of debate, let these four qualities in descending order of importance be:

1.An ability to face the facts, however unpleasant they may be.

Yes, this is critical and we have had enough of liars and careerists. Is Trump a liar ? I don’t know.

2. An unswerving patriotism. This is not the same as a sincere feeling of love or empathy for America, though that is good. In this context it means the willingness to share the fate of the principals of which he is an agent.

Yes, we are ruled these days by elites who do not plan to share any pain. This is unrealistic but they have been raised to believe they can avoid unpleasant reality. What do we do about this ?

3. Nerve. This is the quality of grace under pressure who no one, unless he has the misfortune to be tested, can be sure he possesses.

Yes, the only real test is the reality and then it is too late. A few have tried to analyze this, and it is not easy.

some individuals did not panic because their body naturally protected them.
Unlike the majority of people who were flooded with a stress hormone, they had much lower levels and also showed signs of another hormone that actually calmed them down.

He referred to Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of the aeroplane that was successfully landed on the Hudson River in New York last month, as an example.

“There are some individuals who when confronted with extreme stress their hormone profile is rather unique,” he said.
“It doesn’t reach the same peak as the rest of us. So we’re all ready to scream in our chairs, but there are certain individuals who just don’t get as stressed.

“Their stress hormones are lower and the peptides that down-regulate that stress are higher, so you can see in action the hormonal regular system really hitting overdrive.

“Certain people are cooler under pressure and they perform very, very well during these periods of time.”

In his novel, “Once an Eagle,” by Anton Myrer, the author was critical of men in combat who had no fear. They are abnormal and dangerous. Still, Hemingway defined courage as “Grace under Pressure,” and that implied that fear was still present.

In the novel, “Once an Eagle” Anton Myrer was critical of men with no fear in battle. He considered them dangerous. Hemingway defined Courage as “Grace under Pressure” suggesting that fear was still present. In the movie “Patton” a story is recounted of the General Patton attacked three men who he believed to be kidnapping a woman in New York City.

patton

Does Trump resemble the young Patton ? They have a similar expression.

My own life has been lived as a surgeon and there are surgeons who take beta blockers to deal with tremors caused by high levels of stress hormones. I have never had a problem with anxiety during surgery but, of course, I am not the one under the knife.

4. Intelligence. This is important, because it determines basic competence. But it surprisingly the least important attribute in this list. Intelligence, though rare, is not nearly as hard to find as the 3 characteristics above. You can find staffers who can give you intelligent advice. You cannot find staff to give you a character that you do not possess.

This is so obvious that it should not need to be said but we are ruled by staffers.

What do we make of all this ? I don’t know. Trump is an interesting character and I have no idea how he would function as president. I do think we might get a chance to find out. We should know more in a few weeks.

Schizophrenia’s cause ?

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

nature13595-f1

Today there is an article in the Washington Post that describes a genetic site that may be the source of schizophrenia.

The researchers, chiefly from the Broad Institute, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, found that a person’s risk of schizophrenia is dramatically increased if they inherit variants of a gene important to “synaptic pruning” — the healthy reduction during adolescence of brain cell connections that are no longer needed.

In patients with schizophrenia, a variation in a single position in the DNA sequence marks too many synapses for removal and that pruning goes out of control. The result is an abnormal loss of gray matter.

For years that has been a search for the reason why this mental illness appears in adolescence in people who seemed normal until that stage of development. It is known that adolescence is the time for”pruning” of excessive neuron synapses. Now, it seems that this may be the target f the genetic defect.

The fact that the answer might come from genetics has been known for a while.

To date, around 30 schizophrenia-associated loci10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 have been identified through GWAS. Postulating that sample size is one of the most important limiting factors in applying GWAS to schizophrenia, we created the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC). Our primary aim was to combine all available schizophrenia samples with published or unpublished GWAS genotypes into a single, systematic analysis24. Here we report the results of that analysis, including at least 108 independent genomic loci that exceed genome-wide significance. Some of the findings support leading pathophysiological hypotheses of schizophrenia or targets of therapeutic relevance, but most of the findings provide new insights.

The new paper, just out yesterday in epub, has narrowed the search to the C4 gene on chromosome 6.

After conducting studies in both humans and mice, the researchers said this new schizophrenia risk gene, called C4, appears to be involved in eliminating the connections between neurons — a process called “synaptic pruning,” which, in humans, happens naturally in the teen years.

It’s possible that excessive or inappropriate “pruning” of neural connections could lead to the development of schizophrenia, the researchers speculated. This would explain why schizophrenia symptoms often first appear during the teen years, the researchers said.

This is huge news. I have a chapter on my own experiences in treating schizophrenic men in the early 1960s in my book, War Stories: 50 years in medicine.

My teacher, George Harrington, told me he thought schizophrenia had to be organic in origin and he speculated that it could be deficiency of an unknown vitamin. Genetics were very primitive in those days. The discovery of the number of human chromosomes had only recently been announced when I began medical school. The number was only discovered in 1956, six years before I began medical school.

Using postmortem human brain samples, the researchers found that variations in the number of copies of the C4 gene that people had, and the length of their gene, could predict how active the gene was in the brain.

The researchers then turned to a genome database, and pulled information about the C4 gene in 28,800 people with schizophrenia, and 36,000 people without the disease, from 22 countries. From the genome data, they estimated people’s C4 gene activity.

They found that the higher the levels of C4 activity were, the greater a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia was.

The researchers also did experiments in mice, and found that the more C4 activity there was, the more synapses were pruned during brain development.

This is not therapy by any means but it is a huge step toward something that may prevent the disease is susceptibles.

The Medical History of the American Civil War.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Slide01

This is a lecture I have given a few times and am converting to a long blog post. The American Civil War was the first major war since a number of major advances of medicine had occurred. Sanitation had been studied by John Snow and Florence Nightingale. Anesthesia had been discovered by two Americans, Morton and

Unfortunately, antisepsis would not be described until, 1867, after the war. Infection than was the great scourge of the wounded.

Slide02

The state of medical art before the war was limited.

Slide03

Baron Larrey was the greatest army surgeon of the Napoleonic Wars. He invented the ambulance and pioneered some sanitary advances but the cause of infection was still obscure.

Slide04

Benjamin Rush was a famous American physician but little of what he knew or advocated was of use.

Slide05

The discovery of Ether anesthesia was momentous but it did add the factor that more operations would be attempted before infection was understood.

Slide06

Semmelweiss was tragic figure who realized that infection was transmissible from physicians’ hands to patients but he was unable to convince his colleagues. His discovery of the uses of hand washing were ignored.

Slide07

Florence Nightingale discovered the use of hand washing in caring for the wounded but she did not know why it worked. She is a great hero of the British Army and her apartment in Scutari Barracks in Istanbul is preserved in a shrine.

Slide08

The Scutari Barracks from across the Bosphorus.

Slide09

I visited the museum about ten years ago and visited her quarters which the Turkish Army preserves.

Slide13

The history of Military Medicine really begins with Ambrose Pare’ who served several French Kings and who invented the hemostat.

200px-Ambroise_Paré

His methods were a huge improvement on the Greeks but not much else can be said for their efficacy.

Slide14

The American Army in 1860 was tiny and the medical establishment was a joke.

Slide15

The war resulted in many of the army surgeons resigning to join the Confederacy. The lack of military medical texts resulted in Samuel D Gross, professor of surgery at Jefferson Medical College, writing his own textbook.

To be continued.

Why Doctors Quit.

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Today, Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column on the electronic medical record. He has not been in practice for many years but he is obviously talking to other physicians. It is a subject much discussed in medical circles these days.

It’s one thing to say we need to improve quality. But what does that really mean? Defining healthcare quality can be a challenging task, but there are frameworks out there that help us better understand the concept of healthcare quality. One of these was put forth by the Institute of Medicine in their landmark report, Crossing the Quality Chasm. The report describes six domains that encompass quality. According to them, high-quality care is:

1) Safe: Avoids injuries to patients from care intended to help them
2) Equitable: Doesn’t vary because of personal characteristics
3) Patient-centered: Is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values
4) Timely: Reduces waits and potentially harmful delays
5) Efficient: Avoids waste of equipment, supplies, ideas and energy
6) Effective: Services are based on scientific knowledge to all who could benefit, and it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish

In 1994, I moved to New Hampshire and obtained a Master’s Degree in “Evaluative Clinical Sciences” to learn how to measure, and hopefully improve, medical quality. I had been working around this for years, serving on the Medicare Peer Review Organization for California and serving in several positions in organized medicine.

I spent a few years trying to work with the system, with a medical school for example, and finally gave up. A friend of mine had set up a medical group for managed care called CAPPCare, which was to be a Preferred Provider Organization when California set up “managed care.” It is now a meaningless hospital adjunct. In 1995, he told me, “Mike you are two years too early. Nobody cares about quality.” Two years later, we had lunch again and he laughed and said “You are still too years too early.”

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The Energy Crisis in Africa.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

india-solar-power-2012-640x426

This is a powerful piece on the cost of environmental extremism to the world’s poor.

The soaring [food] prices were actually exacerbated (as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN confirmed) by the diversion of much of the world’s farmland into making motor fuel, in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, for the rich to salve their green consciences. Climate policies were probably a greater contributor to the Arab Spring than climate change itself.

The use of ethanol in motor fuels is an irrational response to “green propaganda. The energy density of biofuel, as ethanol additives are called, is low resulting in the use of more and more ethanol and less and less arable land for food.

Without abundant fuel and power, prosperity is impossible: workers cannot amplify their productivity, doctors cannot preserve vaccines, students cannot learn after dark, goods cannot get to market. Nearly 700 million Africans rely mainly on wood or dung to cook and heat with, and 600 million have no access to electric light. Britain with 60 million people has nearly as much electricity-generating capacity as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, with 800 million.

South Africa is quickly destroying its electricity potential with idiotic racist policies.

Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form of power: fossil fuels. In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.

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Nature and Nurture.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

I have long been a fan of Steven Pinker’s books.

I have read many of them, beginning probably with his books on speech as he is a linguist first. This was probably the first as I was intrigued by his theories about irregular verbs and how children learn language.

He points out, for example, how normal construction in archaic forms such as “Wend, went and wended” have become “Go, went, gone.”
The child makes an error he or she may not understand that “Goed” is not a used form for past tense, whereas “Wend” is an archaic form whose past tense has been substituted. The child is using language rules but they don’t account for irregular verbs. He continues with this thought in The Language Instinct, which came later. Here he makes explicit that this is how the mind works. One review on Amazon makes the point:

For the educated layperson, this book is the most fascinating and engaging introduction to linguistics I have come across. I know some college students who had received xeroxed handouts of one chapter from this book, and these were students who were just bored of reading handouts week after week… but after reading just a few paragraphs from The Language Instinct, they were hooked, fascinated, and really wanted to read the whole book (and did). I wish I had come across such a book years ago…

Now, this is interesting but Pinker has gotten into politics inadvertently by emphasizing the role of genetics in language and behavior. I read The Blank Slate when it came out ten years ago and loved it.

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More Biology

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

I have been posting some long comments at at Chicagoboyz, and decided to do them as post here. The topic is the future of technology.

I am pessimistic on molecular medicine for several reasons. I have gotten into two nasty debates on evolution at conservative web sites. One was at Ricochet and was nasty enough that I quit going there. There were something like 250 comments, of which about four were friendly. At Althouse, it was a bit better but still very negative, about 4 to 1. I let my membership at Ricochet expire and so can’t find the thread.

Found it with Google.

A sample of comments is here.

No disrespect Mike but I think you are suffering from the same problem that a lot of people suffer from. The inability to factor faith into the intellectual equation. It is possible to understand and embrace the science of evolution and apply the knowledge gleaned from it even if you aren’t 100% sure we have the story right.

I 100% believe the story of creation in the Bible, but I have no problem understand the evolution of the sickle cell trait. In the same way I have no problem believing Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead or healed the server of a Roman centurion from miles away even though these things seen completely at odds with medical science.

That doesn’t even take into account the anti-GMO lefties who seem to be more accepting of human modification than with plants.

In both cases, I got into it by commenting that I would not write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to medical school who did not believe in evolution. I tried to make the point that I am not the king of medical school admissions but it was no help.

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Global Warming and the Divestment Movement

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

I have previously posted on global warming, at least back as far as 2007.

If you want to know the costs associated with the “Cap and Trade” system proposed by Kyoto, look at this report. If you can’t decipher the bureaucratic language, here is the conclusion. GDP and consumption impacts in the Full Auction case are substantially larger than those in the Phased Auction case. Relative to the reference case, discounted total GDP (in 2000 dollars) over the 2009-2030 time period in the Full Auction case is $462 billion (0.19 percent lower), while discounted real consumer spending is $483 billion (0.29 percent) lower. In 2030, projected real GDP in the Full Auction case is $94 billion (0.41 percent) lower than in the reference case, while aggregate consumption is $106 billion (0.69 percent) lower, almost twice the estimated consumption loss in the Phased Auction case. A reduction in GDP is called a recession.A reduction that is permanent is called a Depression.

It’s no wonder that nothing was done. First, the risks of serious harm are small. The small amount of warming suggested by more serious studies has nothing to do with the alarmist views.

Now, we have a new strategy. The alarmists are going to try to destroy the fossil fuel industry.

The fossil free movement has spread far and wide on American campuses. Fossil Free Stanford organized in fall 2012 after McKibben visited Palo Alto on his “Do the Math Tour.” Two of the founding members, Michael Penuelas and Yari Greaney, both from the class of 2015, proclaimed their commitment. Greaney held that “our tuition money…is going to support industries that are polluting our future.”

This is standard student radical rhetoric. What is new ?

The students waged a textbook campaign, assembling impressive numbers, soliciting key testimonials, maintaining a respectful tone towards authority while at the same time keeping up the pressure.

The question is really: to what end? The answer is, sadly, self-delusion. No one doubts that Stanford students are smart, but their intelligence is not much of a defense against irrational enthusiasms that can sweep through a community. What the divestment movement has sold to Stanford students is a bit of flummery. When Stanford announced on May 6 that it would divest “direct investments in coal mining companies,” President John Hennessy issued a statement that begins, “Stanford has a responsibility as a global citizen to promote sustainability for the planet…”

Got that? Stanford is no longer a university. It is a “global citizen.” And global citizens, of course, are charged with promoting “sustainability.”

Delusions of this magnitude seem to be getting more common. As at Dartmouth, for example.

The activists unveiled a Freedom Budget in February with over 70 specific actions they want the Dartmouth administration to take to address students’ concerns over diversity, perceived sexism and the campus climate for minorities and the LGBT community. Students entered President Phil Hanlon’s office Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. asking for a point-by-point response, following what they felt was a half-hearted statement about their budget from Dartmouth a day before finals on March 6.

What do they want ? Why not much, just turn Dartmouth into an insane asylum.

The Freedom Budget’s items include hiring more racial minorities as faculty, implementing more gender-neutral housing and bathroom options, banning the term “illegal immigrant,” evaluating the Greek system’s role in sexual assault, and harsher punishments for those who commit sexual violence.

Stanford assigned another Constitutional Law professor to teach the course that Derrick Bell was teaching. Why should this be ?

Stanford at that time had one of the leading scholars in constitutional law, Professor Gerald Gunther — and Derrick Bell was no Gerald Gunther. A hastily created program of study of constitutional law was then used to teach that subject to students who were not getting what they needed in Professor Bell’s course.

When this clever finessing of the problem came to light, the administration apologized — to Derrick Bell for the embarrassment this caused him.

They should have apologized to the law students for short-changing them with a professor who was not up to the job — and to those who donated money to the university to advance the cause of education, not to allow administrators to play racial quota politics on campus.

As a full professor at the Harvard law school, Derrick Bell was also surrounded by colleagues who were out of his league as academic scholars. What were his options at this point?

Here is one example of the result of affirmative action. What about global warming ?

The orthodoxy of the left is just as powerful. It recently claimed another scalp.

Dear Professor Henderson,

I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc.

No mercy for those who say the earth revolves around the sun. Anyway, the alarmists have a big agenda.

This is not a single-issue movement. This is a space where environmental justice, climate justice, and economic justice have come into contact. We understand that we will not win the fight against the fossil fuel industry without confronting racism, classism, homophobia, and other systems of oppression in our movement spaces.

My colleagues and I at the National Association of Scholars have been pointing out for some time how fluidly the sustainability movement changes from clean energy advocacy to a hard left agenda on social issues. Official Stanford no doubt brushes aside these elaborations, thinking that it has discerned the core issue: dirty industries that pollute the water, blight the landscape, and foul the air. But the true core issue is the effort of a movement to foster in students a lifelong aversion to Western values.

How well it will succeed in that no one knows, but there is no comfort in the ease with which Bill McKibben in a little less than two years has conjured this movement into existence.

Personally, I see this as another example of how environmentalism has become a religion that tolerates heretics not at all. The similarity to the Puritans is striking, even to the region that has given rise to the leftist ideology.

Joseph Bottum, by contrast, examines post-Protestant secular religion with empathy, and contends that it gained force and staying power by recasting the old Mainline Protestantism in the form of catechistic worldly categories: anti-racism, anti-gender discrimination, anti-inequality, and so forth. What sustains the heirs of the now-defunct Protestant consensus, he concludes, is a sense of the sacred, but one that seeks the security of personal salvation through assuming the right stance on social and political issues.

Environmentalism is but one branch of leftism but is a particularly intrusive one.